Typically, injury-related chronic pain sufferers need to 1) get comfortable, 2) relax, 3) rest, and 4) focus attention on the injury site (in that order) before SNS pain discharge is triggered. However, the amount of time spent in the first four stages varies. For example, some people become comfortable sooner than others, relax easily, and need very little rest.
Also, pain patterns differ considerably. Some clients have intermittent pain, so they might not have pain on the day of their treatment. Pain discharge occurs anyway. Others have no pain in the injury site, but they have secondary pain in surrounding areas—caused by the original injury. In these cases, pain discharge occurs only in the injury site, but secondary pain is relieved automatically when the regional stress response relaxes following discharge in the injury site. However, most often, clients have pain in the injury site itself on the day of their treatment.
Regardless, clients move through basically the same four stages leading up to discharge. If they start the session with pain, that pain is relieved during the relaxation and resting stages. (This is where pain management methods stop—with temporary pain relief.) Then, as the client rests, sensation begins to build in the injury site, even after years of no pain or sensation in the injury site itself. At this point of the treatment, the client is instructed to focus attention on the sensations, and to feel them as keenly as possible. Sensations of tingling, warmth, and pressure turn to discomfort, which then becomes mild pain. With more focused attention, the pain quickly, sharply, and briefly peaks. The peaking of pain indicates a decisive pain discharge—the goal of treatment. After two to ten seconds of a pain peak, the pain suddenly stops completely or almost completely. Surrounding areas relax instantaneously, thereby relieving secondary pain and improving range of motion dramatically. Minor twinges are normal, in the first two weeks following discharge, while the body finishes the injury healing process.
The level of pain during discharge varies according to the body area. Typically, the low back and hips endure the strongest pain. However, discharge pain is brief, productive, necessary, and tolerable. The client does not relive the original injury. Moreover, pain discharge is not accompanied by emotion discharge or mental memories of trauma. It is simply a brief, physical pain that indicates a nervous system healing event. In some body areas (the knee in particular), the client feels an internal squeezing sensation during discharge, from inside the injury site, as all the tissues contract involuntarily (similar to a TENS unit experience).
Why would the body cause itself pain during a relaxation session? Because the body understands its own healing functions. It knows that a brief experience of discharge pain leads to permanent relief from injury-related chronic pain. In other words, the body needs to feel that pain, and is driven to heal everything it can; it does not hesitate to activate the pain discharge mechanism when intervention allows it.